The 5 Keys to Healthy Eating, According to Harvard

Updated 10/24/18
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After a summer spent in vacation mode—dining out and enjoying cocktails with friends—fall may have you ready for a health and wellness reset. If you've been reevaluating your health goals, there's no need to wait until January 1 to begin focusing on your food and fitness routine. The key is personalizing your lifestyle to fit your needs.

"The bottom line is one size does not fit all when it comes to weight loss," Katherine D. McManus, MS, RD, LDN explains in a recent Harvard Health Blog post. Because factors like age, sex, body type, medical history, genetics, and physical activity play a role in your ability to lose weight, you need a plan that's specific to your needs. However, McManus does indicate that there are a few universal behaviors that everyone interested in losing weight can benefit from. Cutting out soda and sugary drinks, living an active lifestyle, and focusing on food quality instead of calories, are just a few such behaviors.

Keep reading for five more Harvard-approved tips to help you meet all of your healthy living goals.

1. Keep a food record

In order to gain an understanding of where you're starting from, McManus recommends keeping a record of everything you eat for three days. That means keeping track of all the food and drinks you consume, including portion sizes. You'll also want to take note of how often you eat takeout compared to cooking for yourself at home. From there, you can hone in on your goals and make a plan.

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2. Control your portions

The health expert suggests you refamiliarize yourself with standard serving sizes to help with portion control. She points out that one serving size of meat is only about the size of a deck of playing cards and that one serving of pasta is just half of a cup. Keep these standard measurements in mind when serving yourself to take control of how much food you consume.

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3. Follow the 80/20 rule

McManus advises following what's known as the 80/20 rule. That means staying on track 80% of the time and allowing yourself some wiggle room to indulge every once in a while. "You don't want to feel deprived or guilty," she explains.

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4. Eat slowly and mindfully

Even when you're eating a proper portion size of food, McManus encourages you to spend some time enjoying the entire experience of eating. "Take the time to appreciate the aromas, tastes, and textures of the meal in front of you," she says.

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5. Focus on overall health

Changing your behaviors is no small feat. That's why McManus suggests focusing on your overall health instead of subscribing to fad diets. "Find activities you enjoy and do them every day," she says. Whether that's biking, practicing yoga, or running, focus on having fun and enjoying your healthy habits.

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